Archives for the month of: May, 2011

Last Sunday, we celebrated Grandma-in-law’s 91st birthday. It was a pot luck affair and luckily, I was in charge of the cake. I wanted something seasonal. light and fun so I turned to the ladies at Primrose Bakery. Although, it is their ‘Cupcake’ book, there are some cake recipes in the back. The lemon sponge recipe would be a winner.


Cake preparation

They suggest using a buttercream frosting, but I thought vanilla whipped cream would be the perfect companion. A light cake called for a light frosting. Plus after all of the other food, I didn’t want the guests leaving feeling heavy from the cake.

Whipped cream filling

Whipped cream, while easy to prepare, is a bit less forgiving when it comes to applying it to the cake. If you attempt your own whipped cream frosting, I suggest making a bit extra to help cover up any mistakes or crumbs that make their way into the mixture.

Lemon cake with whipped cream frosting

I originally wanted to make it sort of a strawberry lemon shortcake cake, but strawberries have just come in to season. I might just try that out mid June when they are at their prime.

Cake ready for transport

It was a winner with everyone from the young to the young at heart.

Cakes for kids

*photo courtesy of David Johnson

Happy 91st birthday, Nan!

George celebrated her 30th birthday on Tuesday and to mark the occasion, she threw a huge party and no birthday party is complete unless there are cupcakes involved.

Wanting to set a challenge, I decided to test a new recipe. This one was out of my trusty Home Bake cookbook. Everything I have made from this book has been incredible, the cupcakes were no exception. (Eric Lanlard is a genius)

The room was decorated in purple and silver, so I created vanilla cupcakes with purple frosting in purple and silver cases.

And thankfully, the cakes were a hit with the guests, too!

Happy birthday, George! 30 is a great year.

I was asked by a work colleague to create some cupcakes for her sister in law’s baby shower. The guest of honor knew she was having a girl, so pink was the theme for these delicious treats.

I made half of the order chocolate and the other half vanilla, both topped with vanilla frosting in different shades of pink. Thanks to the colour testing, I knew that the “Claret” shade would help create just the right tones.

The tiny feet made these just that bit more special. I couldn’t resist.

Check out some new blogs and join in the Brit Mum’s May Blog Hop
Scroll down to see who’s on the list and add yours.

Ever since @jojogifford tweeted about the Leon cookbook, I was intrigued.  Luckily, I received the Leon Ingredients & Recipes Cookbook shortly after and my intrigue had turned into joy. This cookbook is fantastic.  In fact, every time I am in London and anywhere near a Leon restaurant, I go there and take a new friend with me. (Try the meatball hotbox!!) So, wanting test out my new cookbook, I decided to incorporate one of its recipes into my Easter brunch menu.  Granola won the draw.

The history of my Easter brunch is a long standing tradition. It was the cornerstone of Easter in the Bals household.  Early memories of brunch go back to when I was about nine or ten years old, first going to a golf club in Rocklin (The cherry pie was full of cornstarch… yuck… but why was I eating cherry pie at brunch in the first place. My mistake!) to Charlie Browns.  Ok, this place was the brunch place of all brunch places- enough to rival the morning buffet spread at a high end Vegas hotel (I think, I’m only speculating).  Omelette bars, crepe bars, carvery, salad bars and the ultimate ice cream bar. Yes, you heard me: ICE-CREAM-BAR, like hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, you name it.  When you are 12 years old this is heaven, mecca, valhalla or whatever afterlife you believe. Ice cream bar. We’d go there every year whether it was just the immediate family or with Papa Joe, Aunt Sharon and my cousin, Lauren.  You saved up for brunch – like didn’t eat for a week to prepare for this.  Unfortunately, or fortunately for my waistline, Charlie Brown’s shut up shop in Sacramento. So these extravagant brunches ceased for our family tradition.  But brunch did not.  In fact, even when we lived in Seattle Lauren and I made sure to meet for brunch on easter (14 Carrots… mmm).

Where was I, oh yes… brunch. Many years later, I find myself living in England. A country that has not quite grasped the beauty of brunch (no, all day breakfasts do not count).  I decided this year I would host brunch on Easter Monday. And I did. And it was awesome.

I made lemon ricotta pancakes, recipe courtesy of one of my heroes Mireille Guiliano, served with smoked salmon, greek yogurt, homemade damson compote and the Leon granola.  I cannot recommend this recipe enough.  It makes a kilo and the only downside is that it’s not enough.  Between brunch and subsequent breakfasts for my husband and I, it didn’t last long.  (I really do need to make some more).

So, if you are still reading after my waxing lyrical about brunch and you are a granola fan, definitely try the Leon granola recipe.

It’s now nearing the end of May and I haven’t posted since the end of March. Where has the time gone… seriously?!? Although there haven’t been updates to Cupcakesandotherstuff since 29 March, it’s not because I haven’t been baking. On the contrary, I have been a busy little bee. This is a post to begin catching us up to the present.

For Mother’s Day this year I decided to push my boundaries and try my hand at macaroons. I had this grand idea of putting a (large) selection of colourful macaroons in a jar as you would see in the windows of Laduree. I was going to make pistachio flavoured green ones, almond flavoured pink ones and lemon flavoured yellow ones.

Having been tethered to Eric Lanlard’s Home Bake for the past few months, I thought- He makes it looks so easy! I can do this. And yes, I could do it, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I followed the recipe to a T with my trusty helper and managed to get 6 complete pink macaroons to give as a fancy Mother’s Day gift. The rest went in the bin. I gave up the idea of a multicoloured selection. Thankfully, my mother in law enjoyed the ones that survived.

When Mother’s Day rolled around, we had the family over for an afternoon tea and served a chocolate pistachio cake – recipe courtesy of Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Dense rich chocolate cake made with courgettes (or zucchini for the US readers) made for a tasty afternoon treat that was enjoyed by the adults, as well as my 2 1/2 year old nephew. I think Mini G liked the cake, but was put off by the nuts that topped it. He’s a tricky one to please.

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